Jailed Documentarian Released, Turns To Fiction

Kurdish-Iranian filmmaker Keywan Karimi has made a name for himself with his radical films, but he’s paid the price for it. In a report for Ahval News by Sertaç Aktan, Karimi was able to speak out about his tormented experiences as a creator, and uses the opportunity to warn and inform others seeking to tell underrepresented stories.

His film Writing on the City, a documentary about graffiti in Tehran, led him to be “…sentenced to 6 years in jail, 223 lashes and a fine of 20 million Rials ($600,000) simply because he refused to remove a 10-minute segment.”

That ten minute segment described the Green Movement, and leaving it in prompted his punishment. In the end, he spent one year in prison before his sentence was postponed.

While the article describes an extremely positive experience for Karimi (he was able to see his film on the big screen for the first time in his life last month, in Brussels), the story echoes familiar experiences for Iranian filmmakers, who must frequently ensure that their films operate under specific sanctions from the government, especially in pursuit of national distribution and access.

While known for documentaries, Karimi is now turning to fiction from this point forward, and at a screening he attended he dismissed questions about pursuing asylum. “The truth is: there is a non-stop transfer between me and the society of Iran…I do not want to leave Iran, I will stay in Iran and make new films in Iran.”

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